Types of Dating
The problem with discussing dating behavior is that there are no agreed-on words for different levels of commitment. “Dating,” “going out,” “hanging out,” “seeing each other”— these terms mean different things to different couples. Even a term such as “engaged” can mean different things—to some it means the wedding date is set; to others it simply means that they have decided that someday they will marry each other, although they are in no rush to say when.
On college campuses today there have been many changes in dating practices. Some researchers argue that college “dating” doesn’t exist (see the accompanying Sex in Real Life, “Is Dating Dead on Campus?”). Overall, we know that the dating years in American society begin in earnest in high school, and how they develop depends on whether the person goes to college or directly to work. People with more free time tend to date more, and so college students pursue dating behaviors longer than those who begin working. (Of course, now that people are delaying marriage later and later, they can continue to date for many more years—even into their 30s and 40s—and dating may even begin again after a divorce.)
But the late teens and early 20s are a special time for dating, for then dating patterns become more firmly established and sexual maturity is reached.
In traditional dating, which occurred before the 1970s, the boy | would pick up the girl at her house, the father and mother would meet with or chat with the boy, and then the boy and girl would go to a well-defined event (a “mixer”—a chaperoned, school-sponsored dance—or a movie), and she would be brought home by the curfew her parents imposed (Benokraitis, 1993). Today, however, formal dating has given way to more casual dating, in part because of teenagers’
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